Foreign Policy Implications of Chinese Nationalism Revisited: the strident turn

Professor Suisheng Zhao, Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

A China Studies Centre Distinguished Speaker Lecture

17 September

My talk revisits the debate about foreign policy implications of Chinese nationalism in the context of China’s increasingly confrontational and assertive behaviour in recent years. I argue that while the Chinese government made effective efforts to control popular nationalism and Chinese foreign policy was therefore not dictated by the emotional nationalistic rhetoric before 2008, it has become more willing to follow the popular nationalist calls to take confrontational position against the Western powers and adopt tougher measures in maritime territorial disputes with its neighbours. This strident turn is partially because the government is increasingly responsive to the public opinion, but more importantly because of the convergence of Chinese state nationalism and popular nationalism calling for a more muscular Chinese foreign policy. Enjoying an inflated sense of empowerment supported by its new quotient of wealth and military capacities and terrified of an uncertain future due to increasing social, economic and political tensions at home, the communist state has become more willing to play to the popular nationalist gallery in pursuing the so-called core national interests. These developments have complicated China’s diplomacy, creating a heated political environment to harden China’s foreign policy.

Professor Suisheng Zhao

Professor Suisheng Zhao is Professor and Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. A member of the Board of Governors of the US Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, a member of National Committee on US-China Relations, a Campbell National Fellow at Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and a Research Associate at the Fairbanks Center for East Asian Research in Harvard University, he is the founder and chief editor of the Journal of Contemporary China. He received his Ph.D. degree in political science from the University of California-San Diego, M.A. degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri and BA and M.A. degrees in economics from Peking University, and was Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Washington College in Maryland, Associate Professor of Government and East Asian Politics at Colby College in Maine and visiting assistant professor at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at University of California-San Diego.

He is the author and editor of more than ten books, including recent publications: China’s Search for Energy Security: Domestic Sources and International Implications (2012); China and East Asian Regionalism: Economic and Security Cooperation and Institution-Building (2012), and In Search of China’s Development Model: Beyond the Beijing Consensus, (2011). His articles have appeared in Political Science Quarterly, The Wilson Quarterly, Washington Quarterly, International Politik, The Hague Journal of Democracy, European Financial Review, The China Quarterly, World Affairs, Asian Survey, Asian Affairs, Journal of Democracy, Pacific Affairs, Communism and Post-Communism Studies, Problems of Post-Communism, and elsewhere.